best Hawaiian food: fresh coconut for your Hawaii Itinerary
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The Best Hawaii Itinerary for Your Trip to Oahu

Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Kelly

Hawaii is one of the best vacation destinations in the world, and the island of Oahu is the most popular Hawaiian island to visit. Oahu is home to the famous Waikiki Beach, North Shore, Dole Pineapple Plantation, and more.

I’ve visited Hawaii a handful of times over the years, and I’ve learned a thing or two about planning the perfect Hawaiian vacation. In this post, we’ll share our recommendations for the best Hawaii itinerary. Whether you’re planning a trip for 5 days, 7 days, 10 days, or more, we’ve got you covered!

About Oahu

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

Oahu is one of the 8 primary islands that make up the state of Hawaii. Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu, is located on Oahu. If you’re traveling to Hawaii from out-of state, you’ll first arrive in Oahu.

Oahu is known as The Gathering Place, which continues to be true to this day. Oahu is the third largest Hawaiian island, but it’s the most populous Hawaiian island. Oahu receives the most tourists each year in comparison to the other Hawaiian islands. 

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The Best Hawaii Itinerary

Ali'i Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
Sunrise view from our room at the Ali’i Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

 

We’ve spent a ton of time researching the best things to see and do in Oahu. We created the itinerary below to be flexible depending on the length of your trip. (Whether you’re looking for a 5 day Oahu itinerary, a 7 day Oahu itinerary, or a 10 day Oahu itinerary, we’ve got you covered!)

Under each day below, we’ve included some suggestions of things to see and do. We tried to create itineraries with a good balance of relaxing and sightseeing. You can further customize it by adding your favorite restaurants, tours, etc. We’ve included these ideas to help you plan your trip!

Tip: Take a look at the Go City Oahu all-inclusive pass. You’ll be able to save money by bundling multiple attractions on the island!

Day 1: Waikiki

Lodging: Waikiki

Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery in Oahu

If you traveled from the mainland, chances are that you will be up pretty early due to the time change! (Our toddler decided to wake up at 3:30am on our first day in Hawaii!) 

We recommend that you take advantage of the early morning and beat the crowds. You might want to hike Diamond Head while it’s still cool in the morning. (Be sure to get a reservation permit!) If you don’t want to start your first day hiking, you could also grab breakfast before it gets too busy. We definitely recommend grabbing malasadas (Portuguese-style donuts) at Leonard’s Bakery! I woke up early one morning and beat the line, and the freshly-made malasadas were absolutely delicious! (You can read all about my visit to Leonard’s Bakery.)

We recommend that you spend the rest of the day relaxing. You might want to spend the afternoon at the beach or your resort’s pool. If you head to Waikiki Beach, feel free to swim, take a beach walk, or view local landmarks (like the Duke Kahanamoku Statue). See our full guide to Waikiki Beach for more ideas.

Day 2: Waikiki

Lodging: Waikiki

Royal Hawaiian Luau

For Day 2, we recommend that you spend the morning either at Waikiki Beach or at your resort’s pool. 

After lunch, head to the International Market Place. The International Market Place is a bustling outdoor shopping center with over 80 stores, a lanai full of great restaurants, and frequent cultural events. The International Market Place opened in the 1950s, and it was recently renovated. The market has a massive banyan tree growing in the entrance’s courtyard. You can check out our guide to the International Market Place in Honolulu.

For dinner, we recommend that you make advanced reservations for a luau. If your visit falls on a Monday or a Thursday, we recommend attending the Royal Hawaiian’s luau. We attended their luau and it was very elegant, with an excellent dinner show featuring hula, live music, and an overview of Hawaii’s history. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a landmark in and of itself, so it’s definitely worth visiting!

Be sure to see all our articles about things to do in Hawaii!

Day 3: Explore Outside of Waikiki

Lodging: Waikiki

(Note: We recommend having a rental car for this day.)

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii

For Day 3, we recommend starting off the morning by visiting the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a free nature reserve that is located about 15 miles from Waikiki Beach. The garden is one of the most lush, green places you will find on the island. The Koolau Mountain Range provides the perfect backdrop for your vacation photos. You can spend anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours at the park. You can read all about our experience at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden for more photos.

After you’ve seen the botanical gardens, keep driving inland and visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation. The Dole Pineapple Plantation has a lot to see! They have a train you can ride that will give a tour of the entire plantation, a garden, a maze, and a gift shop. Definitely get a Dole Whip (pineapple soft-serve ice cream) while you’re there too! Be sure to see our photos and review of the Dole Pineapple Plantation.

After you return to Waikiki for the evening, have dinner and enjoy an evening beach walk. Duke’s Waikiki is an iconic place to eat. If you like to go out, you can also enjoy Waikiki’s night life!

Day 4: Pearl Harbor

Lodging: Waikiki

During the morning, we recommend that you book a tour to visit Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, and the USS Missouri Battleship. Most tours are a half-day in length. Booking a tour makes it easy to see Pearl Harbor, because entrance fees and hotel pickup and drop-off are included.

I visited Pearl Harbor when I was in high school, and I will never forget that visit. The memorial features exhibits, galleries, and a theater. Taking the boat out to see the USS Arizona Memorial was a very somber experience. Visiting Pearl Harbor is definitely something you should do at least once while you’re in Hawaii.

In the afternoon, relax at your resort.

For the evening, book a Waikiki Sunset Cruise. It’s the perfect way to catch the sunset!

Day 5: Waikiki

Lodging: Waikiki

For Day 5, we recommend that you explore more of Waikiki in the morning. Check out the Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium.

In the afternoon, if you’re interested in Hawaiian history, check out Iolani Palace, which the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchs. You can book a guided tour of Iolani Palace or you can walk through the palace at your own pace with a self-guided tour.

Another option is to visit the Bishop Museum. The museum features exhibits centered on natural history and Hawaii’s rich cultural history.

For after-dinner drinks, go to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Mai Tai Beach Bar. The Mai Tai was invented at this hotel, so it’s worth it to have the cocktail there!

Day 6: Waikiki

Lodging: Waikiki

(Note: We recommend having a rental car for this day.)

If you’re a big fan of the Jurassic Park movies, you have to go to Kualoa Ranch for the Jurassic Adventure Tour. The 1.5 hour tour will take you to iconic locations that were used in the films. You’ll have a bumpy open-air ride as you cruise through the different locations. You can even book an ATV to explore the property!

In the evening, relax after an active day!

Day 7: Explore the Island

Lodging: North Shore

(Note: We recommend having a rental car for this day.)

On Day 7, we recommend that you check-out of your resort in Waikiki and drive around the island of Oahu. There’s still a lot to see once you leave Waikiki!

First visit Hanauma Bay State Park. Hanauma Bay is a popular snorkeling beach. Hanauma Bay has even been voted as the Best Beach in the United States. At the time of this writing, it costs $25 to enter the park. Hanauma Bay is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. First-time visitors will watch a 9-minute educational video prior to entering the beach, as it’s critically important that all visitors preserve the ecosystem. Under the new Pilot Program, reservations are required.

Afterwards, drive just 2 miles north to see the Halona Blowhole, which is one of Hawaii’s natural wonders. As the waves hit the cove, you just might see water spouting high into the air.

Finally, drive to the North Shore and check into your hotel. Enjoy a good night’s rest!

Day 8: North Shore

Lodging: North Shore

(Note: We recommend having a rental car for this day.)

Spend a low-key day exploring the North Shore and Waialua. The North Shore of Hawaii is famous for its surfing culture. The waves in the North Shore tend to be larger and more intense. 

Spend the afternoon at Haleiwa Beach and enjoy looking around the town. Be sure to go to Matsumoto Shave Ice!

Day 9: North Shore

Lodging: North Shore

(Note: We recommend having a rental car for this day.)

Spend the morning enjoying the North Shore.

For the afternoon and the evening, we recommend that you visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. You will learn all about the people of the Pacific Islands. It’s truly an immersive experience, with lots of live music, dance, and demonstrations. The center has six replicas of villages from the following islands: Hawaii, Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, Aotearoa, and Fiji. The Polynesian Cultural Center also has one of the best luau’s and evening shows that you will find on the island! I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center when I was 16-years-old, and I still have amazing memories of that experience.

Day 10: Head Home

(Note: We recommend having a rental car for this day.)

Head back to Honolulu and fly home. Be sure to say, a hui hou, which translates to until we meet again!


Tips for Planning a Trip to Hawaii

  • Reservations: Make reservations for dinners, luaus, shows, and excursions in advance. Hawaii is a popular place to visit, and some experiences can sell out. Reservations are now required for visiting places like Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head. Book your reservations well in advance of your trip. 
  • Balance Relaxation with Sightseeing: Think carefully about how you want your vacation to Hawaii to be. Do you want to spend most of your days relaxing on the beach? Would you rather not leave the resort? Or would you rather see as much as you possibly can? There’s so much to see and do in Hawaii, and we recommend finding an ideal balance of relaxation and sightseeing that works for you.
  • Pack Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Reef-safe sunscreen is required when you’re at the beach, so it’s best to buy it ahead of time.
  • Pack Groceries and Snacks: If you have room in your luggage, it’s worth bringing a fair amount of snacks and basic groceries. Things are more expensive on the Hawaiian islands because they have to be imported. During our last visit, we brought some oatmeal packets. That gave us a cheap breakfast that we could make in our hotel room. (It was also helpful for having a quick breakfast before an early-morning excursion.)
  • Be a Respectful Visitor: It’s important to be a responsible and respectful tourist. Learn about the island’s culture in advance, as well as the impact of colonialism. When you’re outdoors, follow Leave No Trace principles to keep the environment pristine.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days do you need in Hawaii?

If you’re planning on visiting Oahu, we recommend spending at least 7 to 10 days for your trip. Hawaii is a long way to travel, and you’ll likely need a bit of time to adjust to the time change. With 7 days, you’ll be able to see most of the must-see sights in Oahu. If you’re planning to visit multiple islands, we recommend that you set aside at least 2 weeks. That will give you enough time to both relax and see what the islands have to offer.

Is 7 days in Hawaii enough?

We think that 7 days in Hawaii is enough to have a good time and see many of the island’s attractions. Our last trip to Hawaii was 7 days, and we felt like we had a good amount of time to both relax and explore. Of course, we would always like to stay for longer if possible!

Is Hawaii worth one week?

We think that Hawaii is absolutely worth visiting if you have just one week to spend on vacation. With tropical beaches, trendy restaurants, and natural wonders to explore, you’ll have plenty to do!


Hotels in Honolulu

We recommend staying in Waikiki when you visit Honolulu. You’ll be steps away from the beach, and you’ll have a dazzling array of restaurants and shops within walking distance. 

See our full review of our stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort here!
 

  Booking.com

Luxury Hotels

  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: When we visited Waikiki in 2022, we stayed at the Ali’i Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The Ali’i Tower is the most luxurious tower on the resort property, and it has its own private pool, lounge, and check-in. The Ali’i Tower has ocean-view and oceanfront rooms, and it’s just steps away from the beach and lagoon. We wrote a full review of our stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
  • Halekulani Hotel: This luxury 5-star hotel has a beautiful pool overlooking Waikiki with a mosaic floor of 1.2 million pieces of glass tiles. The hotel also offers daily surfing demonstrations.
  • The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort: This is another 5-star located right on the beach with two pool options. (Plus poolside cabanas!)

Moderately Priced Hotels

  • Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel: This hotel is located within walking distance of the beach, as well as other attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo and Kapahulu Avenue. 
  • Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach: Waikiki Beach is just a 3-minute walk from this hotel. This hotel also offers daily complimentary breakfast. 

Budget Hotels

  • Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki Hotel: This hotel is located just a few blocks away from Waikiki Beach. There’s also a small outdoor pool.
  • Ilima Hotel: This hotel is just a couple of blocks from the beach, and it has free parking.


Summary: The Best Hawaii Itinerary

Dole Pineapple Plantation, things to do in Honolulu with kids

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, we hope that this Hawaii itinerary guide was helpful to you as you plan your trip! We had the best time visiting Hawaii, and we would go back in a heartbeat!

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Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please see individual websites embedded in this post for the most current trip-planning information.

Hi, I’m Kelly!

After studying abroad in Spain, I became passionate about international travel. Since then, I’ve traveled to 6 continents and 36 states within the United States. When I’m not travel blogging, you can find me hiking, reading books in Spanish, or playing cribbage. I hope my blog inspires you to see the world!